LORDS AND OUTLAWS: THE PARKS OF COLORADO

Andrea Downing

In my recent release, Shot through the Heart, my hero, Shiloh Coltrane, goes in search of outlaws in the Colorado Rocky Mts. through both Estes Park and Brown’s Hole (later named Park). This mountain area was once called the ‘Switzerland of America’ because of its beauty, and within its domain at around 8,000 ft. are several “parks”:  North Park, Middle Park, South Park, Winter Park and, of course, Estes Park. Why are they called “Park”?  Apparently, it’s Colorado-speak for an upland valley—and I have to say sounds rather nicer than ‘Hole,’ which is another western take on valleys, as in Brown’s Hole.

  Estes Park was renowned for its beauty but was also an abundant hunting ground. It was brimming with wildlife that attracted numerous overseas visitors in the 19th century, notably wealthy men who came to hunt creatures they wouldn’t encounter back home. The Earl of Dunraven, an Anglo-Irish peer, was so enamored of this area, which he first viewed in 1872, that he set out to make it his own.

 

Why Dunraven favored Estes Park came down to several details, as varied as the beautiful sunsets, the dry air, and the fact nearby Denver was a station for no less than five railroad lines. He loved the area so much that he paid Albert Bierstadt $15,000 for a painting of Estes Park. The way Dunraven set about obtaining ownership to six thousand acres was a modus operandi that would be employed by numerous ranchers throughout the west in the coming years. Exercising his vast resources, he had his agents bribe various American citizens to make use of both the Pre-emption Act and Homestead Act to either buy or prove up 160 acres each. By choosing the sites wisely, Dunraven enclosed more acreage without access to water. Thirty-one claims were filed for his use.

In the next sixteen years, Dunraven was able to make the seventeen-day journey from Liverpool annually or more often. But as time went on, with squatters moving in, a grand jury investigating his claims, and his own increased involvement in HM Queen Victoria’s government, he was unable to visit after 1882 and eventually sold his land.

Most people who have visited the national park will have travelled at least part of Trail Ridge Road. Peaking at 12,000 ft., it twists and turns on the backbone of the Rockies through some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. If you continue on this road on a rather circuitous manner, you will eventually reach Steamboat Springs. And from there if you head north, you touch upon Brown’s Hole, or Brown’s Park, nestled near the borders of CO, UT, and WY. You can see in the photos how the landscape changes from the greens of Estes Park to the red rock country and canyons of Brown’s Park.

Brown’s Park had a long history of being visited by Native Americans and trappers.  Its harsh landscape was not particularly welcoming but a few settlers did move in, and there was a trading post. But the main visitors in the late 1800s were rustlers and other outlaws, and it became part of the outlaw’s trail, which included Robber’s Roost (UT) and Hole-in the-Wall (WY). Men such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Elzy Lay, and Tom Horn, as well as the Queen of Cattle Rustlers, Ann Bassett, had hide-outs or homes in Brown’s Park. Today part of it is the Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge, and its landscape, which eventually leads into Flaming Gorge in WY, remains fairly isolated and remote. Strict regulations are in place for the hiker, camper or other visitor, and warnings such as lack of cell phone reception and bringing enough water abound. For the outlaw on the run it remains a perfect hide-out.

To find out whether or not Shiloh gets his man and returns home to his beloved, you’ll have to read Shot through the Heart.  I’m happy to let one lucky reader find out for free by commenting below. The prize will be a signed paperback if the winner is in the US or, for an overseas winner, any version of an eBook they prefer.

 

Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family’s Wyoming ranch, only to find there’s still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.
Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.
When the two meet, it’s an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what’s right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

Click to Find Andrea Downing online 

 

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49 thoughts on “LORDS AND OUTLAWS: THE PARKS OF COLORADO”

  1. Welcome Andrea- What a beautiful blog of such amazing country. It’s so sad that much of this area is either on Fire now or has had fires this summer. Speaking of Summer, My Husband & I went to WY and Yellowstone in August and we live in KS so we traveled through Denver, just east of all this beauty you have given us today.
    Thank you for sharing so much history.
    Come back again soon. Have a Blessed day and weekend.

    • Tonya, you beat me to it–I wanted to say how saddened I’ve been to learn of the fires in this area and the evacuations–my heart and prayers are with the residents in Estes Park, but it is a loss to all of us. I hope you loved Yellowstone as much as I do–I miss terribly my home in Wilson which I haven’t been able to get to at all this year.

  2. Hi Andrea, I just went on a work vacation in late August and we went to Utah, all thru Colorado and a small part of New Mexico. I loved it there. We made our way from Ouray Colorado down to Trinidad Colorado. In Ouray they have a hotel with “Switzerland of America” on it. It truly was the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. I live in Northern Indiana so it was totally different for me. I can’t wait to go back someday.

    Your book sounds fascinating!

    • Dale, what a work vacation! Where do I sign up?! Utah and New Mexico are two favorite states for me, Utah for its red rock country and national parks, and New Mexico for its Indian country–in fact, I had a vacation there planned when the pandemic struck and we had to cancel. So sad…

  3. I love strong, intelligent, independent, courageous heroines like Sydney. Revenge is a powerful motivator especially when lose family members have been murdered. I will look for your story SHOT THROUGH THE HEART.

    I visited Rocky Mt National Park for the first time last September. We stayed in Estes Park for a week. Gorgeous! Hard to see all the destruction the fires have caused across the US this year.

    I’m lucky to have a son and D-I-L who are environmental scientists for the NPS. They currently work in Utah and Colorado. In the past New Mexico and Wyoming.

    I’ve seen the breathtaking San Juan Mts, Wind River, WY, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Glacier and Olympic National Parks recently. Along with many parts of Oregon.

    • I’m so pleased to know of your son and d-i-l’s work for the NPS. I’m a strong supporter and read the National Parks magazine cover to cover every month. Of course, I have the privilege of owning a home only 5 miles from Grand Teton and about an hour from Yellowstone (when I can get there) so am highly prejudiced in my views that these are treasured areas that should be respected and kept for the public. I’ve seen the places you mention and they are, indeed, very beautiful–I hope you continue to travel through the parks in those areas–hopefully we’ll get these fires under control so they are once again open to all.

  4. Beautiful country. The destruction by fire breaks my heart. Growing up in Texas, the first week school let out each year, my mom and dad packed us up and headed for the mountains in Colorado. I have fond memories of camping, hiking, and fishing throughout the state. I miss it.

    I’m curious to see what Shiloh learns from revenge.

    • The namesake of my heroine! When I was writing the book, I hadn’t as yet decided on a name for the good doctor but I knew it had to be something that could be mistaken for a man’s name. I happened to be speaking with someone at the booking center for Yellowstone and she introduced herself as Sydney…and the rest is history. Thanks for your kind words, Sydney.

      • That is funny; thanks for sharing that. I certainly would have thought McKenzie a female name. But then Andi/Andy can get confusing as well. And then there was John Wayne whose real name was Marion…

  5. I was able to visit the park on the way home from my son’s graduation from college. I always try to imagine travelling by horse or wagon through these somewhat barren lands and wonder how brave (or how awful their lives were) to have the heart to get in a covered wagon and travel through the lands around here. I also wonder if I could survived as well as the women of the past- they were surely strong in heart,

    • Yes, that is quite some terrain through Rocky Mt. National Park and all that area. In Wyoming, I actually live at the top of the Teton Pass which is treacherous in bad weather and yet the Mormons came up from Utah that way to settle in what is now Grand Teton Park. I’m afraid to DRIVE the dang road and yet they came up in wagons.

  6. Shot Through the Heart sounds intriguing and I love the book cover! It sure looks like hard terrain to be going through on covered wagons , I would be pretty scared to do it. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Have a Great weekend and stay safe.

    • Alicia, the day before my daughter and I were to leave Estes Park and travel the Trail Ridge Road & on to Steamboat Springs my low tire light came on. Sure enough, there was a leak and we were lucky enough to get in early the next day before leaving & have it fixed. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have a flat on that road, never mind attempt it in a wagon. You stay safe, too!

  7. Great post. Pre COVID an organization I work with used to host an annual youth summit in Estes Park. Thanks for the pix.

  8. This Post is such an amazing post Thank you for sharing about these beautiful parks! I Love the cover of your book Can’t wait to read as I Love reading books like this Have a great weekend! Blessings!

  9. I am a native of Colorado so this book interests me.
    I have visited Estes Park and Steamboat several times. My family loved to ski in Steamboat Springs.

    It is very pretty scenery. The last time we were there several elk walked leisurely across the road. awesome

    • Joye, I wonder where you’re living now–it’s too sad to have left CO. Elk are lovely to watch, as are moose and buffalo (up where I am in WY) but can be deadly on the road. Take care!

  10. This book sounds like one I woukd enjoy reading. Always fun to read articles about my home state of Colorado.

  11. We were lucky enough to live in Colorado Springs for three years in the early 1980’s. It has certainly changed a lot since then. When we went to Estes Park and that region, we never headed to the northern areas. I was surprised to see how it changed from green forested to arid semi-desert. Heading south out of there the terrain changes that way. Who knows what it will be like after the terrible fires now plaguing the area.
    I knew many English aristocrats purchased vast “ranches” but never realized how they managed to do it. It was an interesting and effective method. I wonder if he made a profit. There are many area out there both in the arid and forested sections for outlaws or anyone else to disappear.
    It sounds like your story addresses how harsh the West was. The land made prospering hard work and the people made it difficult and dangerous. It sounds like a place your female doctor had to fight for what she wanted and your hero had to fight for justice. Sounds like the cruelty of that area was determined to cheat them both of the future they wanted.
    Thanks for the pictures and the interesting post. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Interesting thoughts Patricia. My first book, Loveland, deals more with the English aristocracy and their ranches. There were many, especially up in Wyoming. An uncle of Winston Churchill’s, Morton Frewen, was one of the first to start the idea of using the open range for their own purposes, or enclosing it with homesteads taken by cowboys working for you. You can read more about it in my piece https://andreadowning.com/2011/11/27/moreton-frewen-mortal-ruin/ The ranches were profitable until the winter of 1886/7 wiped them out, but Lord Dunraven was gone by then and he didn’t really run Estes Park as a ranch, he wanted it for hunting. Thanks for your comment!

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